Born in Guéret, Creuse, Marcel Jouhandeau grew up in a world of women presided over by his grandmother. Under the influence of a young woman from the Carmel of Limoges, he embraced a mystical form of Catholicism and for a time thought to enter the orders. However, in 1908 he left for Paris where he studied first at the Lycée Henri-IV, and then at the Sorbonne where he began to write. In 1912 he became a professor in a school at Passy.
As a very young man, Marcel Jouhandeau discovered his homosexual feelings, which provoked great guilt as offensive to God. Still, his feelings of shame did not prevent him from engaging in numerous homosexual acts and his whole life alternated between a celebration of the male body and mortification of sexuality. In 1914, during a mystical crisis, he burned his manuscripts and attempted suicide. Once the crisis had passed, he turned again to writing and created the village chronicles which brought him his first literary successes.
During World War I, he was initially a secretary in his hometown of Guéret. In 1924 he published Pincegrain, a barely disguised chronicle of the inhabitants of Guéret, which shocked the people of the town. His voyages became an opportunity for him to give himself over to his love of men, as he recounted in the Amateur d'imprudences.
At age 40, he married a dancer, Élisabeth Toulemont, known as Caryathis « Elyse », the former mistress of Charles Dullin and an intimate friend of Jean Cocteau and Max Jacob. She hoped to rid him of his homosexual leanings. During this period he undertook a work of Christian moralism (De l'abjection) before tumbling again into the arms of men—much to the dismay of his wife—which he wrote about in Chronique d'une passion and Eloge de la volupté.
Nevertheless Jouhandeau and his wife adopted a girl named Céline, who gave birth to a baby boy, Marc. Following the death of Élise in 1971, Jouhandeau finished his last days in Rueil-Malmaison with Marc.
- La jeunesse de Théophile (1921)
- Les Pincengrain (1924)
- Prudence Hautechaume (1927)
- Monsieur Godeau intime (1926)
- L'amateur d'imprudences(1932)
- Monsieur Godeau marié (1933)
- Chaminadour (1934-1941)
- Algèbre des valeurs morales (1935)
- Le Peril Juif, Editions Sorlot, 1938.
- Chroniques maritales (1938)
- De l'abjection (1939)
- Essai sur moi-même (1947)
- Scènes de la vie conjugale (1948)
- Mémorial (1948)
- La faute plutôt que le scandale (1949)
- Chronique d'une passion (1949)
- Eloge de la volupté (1951)
- Dernières années et mort de Véronique (1953)
- Contes d'enfer (1955)
- Léonara ou les dangers de la vertu (1955)
- Carnets de l'écrivain (1957)
- L'école des filles (1960)
- Journaliers (1961-1978)
- Les instantanés de la mémoire (1962)
- Trois crimes rituels (1962)
- Le Pur Amour (1970)
- Pages égarées (1980)
- David M. Halperin, What Do Gay Men Want?: An Essay on Sex, Risk, and Subjectivity, Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2007, p. 71